48

In 2013, CNN made this claim:

Each day - Three or more women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands on average, according to the American Psychology Association.

Indeed, the linked APA website makes the claim:

On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.

Unfortunately, this statistic is unreferenced (or, at least, it's not directly referenced; there's a bunch of references, but it's not clear which the statistic might be in).

I found a similar unreferenced claim in the article 3 Women Are Killed Every Day By Their Partners ... at the Huffington Post and in the article Three Women Are Murdered by Their Husbands, Boyfriends Every Day in America at AlterNet.

Question: In the US, are three women killed each day by their male partners?

  • Note that "Three or more" is implied by "more than three", but not the other way round. Also, "on average, more than three" make sense, but "boyfriends or husbands on average" does not. Your question also excludes the rare situation when the husband is a woman, while it is included in the original citations. – user42671 Nov 2 '17 at 1:06
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    @user42671 Not really (to your first sentence). Given that it's a statistical average, it's very unlikely that it will be exactly three over any useful time period. So the difference between >3 and >= 3 is kind of irrelevant. Also, I think you'll find that a "husband" is by definition male. – Dawood ibn Kareem Nov 2 '17 at 3:37
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    Sorry, but I can't read this question without thinking about the overpopulation joke: "Somewhere in the world, a woman gives birth every minute. Our job is to find that woman, and stop her." – mickeyf Nov 2 '17 at 12:10
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    Absolute numbers, even when referring to heinous crimes, are meaningless without reference to the total surveyed. The U.S. have the third largest population in the world, and virtually no one has a useful intuition about just how much 325,000,000 really is. Therefore such factoids are almost useless to convey a sense of what is or isn't an urgent problem. – Kilian Foth Nov 2 '17 at 17:47
  • @KilianFoth i agree, it's probably better to express it as a percentage of violent deaths or overall deaths (perhaps conditioning on gender, perhaps not). All those numbers still look bad, so I don't think this is a misleading statistic. – k_g Nov 2 '17 at 20:32
71

This appears to be mostly correct and derived from a report published by the CDC: Racial and Ethnic Differences in Homicides of Adult Women and the Role of Intimate Partner Violence — United States, 2003–2014.

The report seems to look at two numbers: 2015 for all of the US and statistics 2003-2014 but only for 18 states. There is also an older report by the department of justice (Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008) which has more consistent data. The numbers don't quite add up, but seem to align to the following conclusions

  • There are around 3000 female homicide victims per year
  • about half of those are killed by a male partner
  • That would result in an average of about 4 per day

The absolute number, of course, doesn't mean much without putting in context: how many males are killed by their female partner. The Department of Justice report puts the "males killed by females" rate at about 7% vs 40% of "females killed by males". On the other hand the total number of males killed overall is also about 3.5 times higher (see for example Wikipedia: Homicide statistics by gender).

Putting this all together, one could estimate that the total number of females killed by male partners is about 60% higher than the other way around. In terms of daily average that would be around 4 for females and around 2.5 for males.

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    Not sure where you get the 7% figure; in the DoJ report you cite, the most recent statistics for "killed by intimates" were 4.9% for men and 45% for women. The greater incidence of men being victims of homicide still pertains, but the number is 300% higher, not 60%. – jdunlop Nov 1 '17 at 15:16
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    @jdunlop: page 18 lists a decline from 10.4% to 4.9% . NPR has summarized that to 7% npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/21/538518569/…. Obviously this is subject to interpretation – Hilmar Nov 1 '17 at 15:51
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    "The absolute number, of course, doesn't mean much without putting in context: how many males are killed by their female partner" Eh? Of course the absolute male-on-female number has value without being compared to the female-on-male number; it gives us a (rough) idea of the total cost in human lives of domestic violence, and thereby helps us weigh the importance of domestic violence against other causes of death. The gender ratio is only useful if you want to impose some kind of gender-targeted anti-DV intervention (or just write a feminist thinkpiece about how evil men are, I guess). – Mark Amery Nov 1 '17 at 22:09
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    The numbers are intrestingly pointless without context. In germany there are 1-1.5 people murdered per day... – PlasmaHH Nov 1 '17 at 22:24
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    @MarkAmery to weigh it against other causes of death you need context. Numbers without context like here usually just mislead. – CodeMonkey Nov 2 '17 at 8:25
7

According to Racial and Ethnic Differences in Homicides of Adult Women and the Role of Intimate Partner Violence — United States, 2003–2014, table 2,

Out of a studied 10,018 females killed, 3,417 were by a current intimate partner and 618 were by a former intimate partner, for a total of 4045 (40.3%) by a current or former intimate partner.

(The 40.3% figure is very similar to the 41.5% found for the 1980-2008 time period in table 6 this report)

It is also stated:

In 2015, homicide caused the death of 3,519 girls and women in the United States

40.3% of 3,519 = 1418 females killed by an current or former intimate partner in a year.

3.9 per day.

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